If you happen to notice your ferrets licking each other’s ears, it can leave you with many questions. You will certainly want to know whether this is normal ferret behavior. Further, you will want to know what the meaning of this ear licking behavior is. You may more specifically want to know whether it is a sign of something that is wrong, and what you can do about it.
Why do ferrets lick each others ears? Well, in most cases, when ferrets lick each other’s ears, it is a grooming behavior. It shows that the ferrets that are licking each other’s ears are getting along well. In other words, it shows that they are close. So the ear licking behavior in ferrets signifies trust, and is a way of bonding.
There are of course cases where you notice that the ear licking behavior is excessive. This may be common in young ferrets that were weaned too early. So you find them licking for comfort/security.
Then we have other cases where the ear licking seems to be forceful grooming, with the aim of asserting domination. We may also have cases where ferrets that have ear mites lick are licked more by their mates, as a way of comforting/soothing them.
Read on, for answers to all these and other related questions.
Do Ferrets Lick Each Other?
Before proceeding to answer the question on why do ferrets lick each others ears, it is important to first establish whether licking is normal behavior in these animals.
So, do ferrets normally lick each other (or is it a rare/abnormal behavior)? The answer is that ferrets do lick each other often. It is something they do very frequently. It is one of their primary ways of communicating with each other.
Therefore if you happen to find your ferrets licking each other (in the ears or elsewhere), you should understand that it is normal behavior. It shouldn’t really be cause for concern. In fact, it would be greater cause for concern if you have two ferrets living together and never licking each other at all.
Why Do Ferrets Lick Each Other?
There are several reasons as to why ferrets lick each other. In some cases, ferrets will lick each other for bonding purposes. This is normally the case where the licking is being done in an affectionate manner.
So if you have been wondering, do ferrets lick for affection (or do ferrets show affection through licking), now you have the answer. It is a possibility. Ferrets do sometimes lick for affection.
In some other instances, the licking is simply part of grooming: where ferrets endeavor to keep each other clean. We also have cases where ferrets lick each other as a way of showing sexual interest. This is more common during the breeding season. In this case, the licking will typically be on the neck, rather than in the ears. But some ear licking may also take place in this context.
Then there are cases where ferrets lick each other as a way of establishing dominance. So a ferret that wants to assert its dominance over another ferret tries to force-lick it. We also have scenarios where, in the course of routine play, ferrets lick each other.
Of course, it is important to differentiate licking from biting. Sometimes, what looks like licking soon turns into biting. And what looks like ferret play soon turns out to be a ferret fight. This is in fact why the question on how do you tell if ferrets are fighting or playing is so common.
So in cases where the licking turns into biting, it is no longer affectionate. At this level, it becomes a sign of aggression.
With this background, we can now proceed to look at the reasons on why do ferrets lick each others ears.
Why Do Ferrets Lick Each Others Ears?
Firstly, the ferrets may be licking each other’s ears as a way of bonding. So ear licking is one of the ways in which ferrets manage to establish social ties in their packs. The ear licking sessions are akin to the talking/gossiping sessions we as humans have – and through which we establish social ties.
Secondly, the ferrets may lick each other’s ears as a comforting ritual. This is where, for instance, young ferrets that were taken from their mothers/weaned too early may suck on each other’s ears, for comfort and security. So in this way, the ferrets try to get the comfort and security they would otherwise be getting from their mothers by sucking on each other’s ears.
Another iteration of this is where ferrets that discover their pack-mate has parasites (for instance ear mites or fleas) decide to comfort him or her through ear licking. Ferret ear mites can cause considerable itching and discomfort. The mates of the ferret who has such itching or discomfort may opt to offer comfort –as best as they can – by licking the ears.
Thirdly, you may find the ferrets licking each other’s ears simply as part of routine grooming. We know that ferrets, just like cats, are meticulous groomers. And beyond self-grooming, the ferrets also groom each other. Therefore the ear licking may be part of this.
Fourthly, you may find a ferret licking another ferret’s ears (somewhat forcefully) as a way of asserting dominance over that other ferret. Most animals have ways of asserting dominance over one another. In ferrets, one of the ways in which this is achieved is through licking, especially where it is done in a somewhat forceful manner.
So those are the key answers on why do ferrets lick each others ears.
Are Ferrets Ears Sensitive?
This question (on whether ferrets’ ears are sensitive) is one that often comes up alongside the one on why do ferrets lick each others ears. The truth of the matter is that ferret’s ears are quite sensitive. In fact, the ears are some of the most sensitive parts on the ferrets’ bodies. This is why ear licking plays such a critical role in ferret communication and bonding.
Why Do Ferrets Bite Each Others Ears?
Sometimes, what looks like ear licking in ferrets turns out to be biting. Often, you have a ferret licking other ferret’s ears gently several times, before taking a bite. Then the question evolves from why do ferrets lick each others ears to why do ferrets bite each others ears.
And as it turns out, where ferrets bite each other’s ears, it is usually a sign of aggression. It can also mean that the biting ferret is trying to assert dominance over the other one. Or it may mean that the biting ferret is just being naughty.
So are the possibilities to consider, when trying to answer the question on why is my ferret biting other ferrets ear.
Why Does My Ferret Lick My Ears?
There are cases where you find that the ferret is not licking another ferret’s ears, but rather, your very own ears! Then the question is no longer on why do ferrets lick each others ears. Rather, it becomes why does my ferret lick my ears.
So, indeed, why do ferrets lick you in the ears? The answer is that ferrets normally lick you in the ears as a way of grooming you. So in licking your ears, the ferret is trying to bond with you. This basically shows that the ferret is on good terms with you.
A ferret licking your ears may also mean that it is trying to catch your attention. Or it may just like the salty taste on your ears. Sometimes this apparent love for salty ears may actually lead to the question on can ferrets have salt licks.
This comes up considering how they seem to like sucking our salty ears? But the answer is ‘no’. Salt licks are not ideal for ferrets. But your ferret may continue sucking on your salty ears – if that is something you are comfortable with.
You nonetheless need to beware that at some point, the ferret may move from licking your ears, to actually biting.
How To Stop Ferret From Biting?
It has already become clear that in some cases, ferret ear licking soon turns into biting. Then we move from asking, why do ferrets lick each others ears to why do ferrets bite each others ears. From there, the next logical step is to find out how to stop ferrets from biting.
And as it turns out, if it is about stopping the ferret from biting you, what you need to do is know when to put the ferret down. Usually, the biting occurs when the ferret wants you to let go of him/put him down.
In most cases, before biting, the ferret will give a warning by way of licking. So it is normally a situation where the ferret licks several times, before biting. Yours is to know when the licking is escalating into a bite, and put the ferret down at the appropriate point.
Consider rewarding the ferret when it desists from biting behavior, and punishing it mildly when it engages in the biting behavior. The punishment may, for instance, be by way of banishing the offending ferret to a sin box or withholding treats. Once the ferret sees the relationship between the reward/punishment and biting behavior, it should behave appropriately. This approach also applies in stopping the ferret from biting another ferret.
Ferret Licking Other Ferrets Ears – What Does It Mean?
This is really another way of putting across the question on why do ferrets lick each others ears. And there are several possible meanings for ferret licking other ferrets ears. It may mean that the respective ferrets are trying to bond. And it can also mean that the ferret that is licking the other ferret’s ears is trying to assert its dominance over the other ferret.
Further, it can mean that the ferret is just trying to keep the other ferret clean (as part of routine grooming). Or it may mean that the ferret is seeking a sense of comfort/security by sucking on the other ferret’s ears.
The way to tell the exact meaning of ferret licking other ferrets ears is by checking how the biting ferret goes about it. Does ferrets lick the other one’s ears in an affectionate manner? Or is it in an aggressive manner? Is the licking taking place once in a while? Or does the licking seem to be obsessive? The manner in which it is done can offer clues on the meaning behind it.
Where the licking is done in an affectionate manner, it may be part of a bonding or grooming ritual. In a situation where it is done in a somewhat aggressive manner, it may be a case of trying to assert dominance.
And where the licking is somewhat obsessive, it may be a case of a ferret trying to find comfort/security. This may apply, for instance, in a ferret that was weaned too early.
Ferret Licking Other Ferrets Ears – What To Do?
After establishing why do ferrets lick each others ears, we can now proceed to find out what you can do about it. And as it turns out, in most cases, there is not much you can do about the ear licking behavior in ferrets. Where it is part of bonding/grooming routine, you just have to let it be. It means that the ferrets are getting along well: which is exactly what you want as their owner.
In cases where the licking is done with the objective of asserting dominance, again there is not much you can do. You just have to respect the resultant pecking order (though these dominance/subjugation relationships in ferrets tend to be quite fluid).
Nonetheless, where there is excessive ear licking, you may need to do some investigation. Could it be that the ferret whose ears are being sucked has a mites, flees or an infection that its mates are trying to soothe by way of licking?
Should you find this to be the case, you can consider finding ways of ridding your ferret of the mites, fleas or whichever other parasites. If the whole thing is evolving into an infection, you may consider consulting your vet for ferret ear infection treatment.
Sometimes, you may have extreme cases where you have a ferret licking another ferret’s ear in a somewhat forceful manner, and where the ferret whose ears are being licked is becoming uncomfortable. In such cases, you may need to devise a way to stop the ferret from licking other ferret’s ears. In the worst case scenario, you may have to separate the two ferrets.
Final Verdict – Why Do Ferrets Lick Each Others Ears
Why do ferrets lick each others ears? Ferrets often lick each other’s ears as part of bonding and grooming rituals. A ferret may also lick another ferret’s ears as a way of trying to assert dominance over that other ferret. Further, ferrets may lick each other’s ears as a way of trying to get a sense of comfort/security – especially in young ferrets that were weaned too early.
At another level, ferrets may lick the ears of another ferret whose ears have parasites (fleas, mites and so on) in a bid to soothe it.
Ferret licking other ferrets ears is usually not cause for concern, unless it escalates into biting. But there are cases where closer examination reveals that the ferret whose ears are being licked seems to have parasites. Those may be, for instance, mites or fleas in its ears. In such instances, it may be ideal to get rid of those parasites, in order to give the ferret better, lasting relief.